The popularity of gritty true crime Korean cinema continues with serial killer kidnap drama “Missing”, directed by Kim Sung Hong, who previously helmed the psycho thrillers “Say Yes” and “The Hole”. Here he offers up more murder and madness as he fictionalises the events of a horrific real life case from 2007 in which an elderly fisherman killed four women in Bosung, South Jeolla Province. Although the film had a comparatively low budget, Kim managed to assemble a very impressive cast, headlined by veteran actor Moon Sung Keun (recently in “Public Enemy Returns”), with Choo Ja Hyun (“Portrait of a Beauty”, “Bloody Tie”) and Jeon Se Hyung, “Temptation of Eve – Her Own Art”) as the two unfortunate women who cross his path. Having enjoyed some success on its domestic release back in 2009, the film now arrives on region 2 DVD via CineAsia.
The film gets right down to business, with the beautiful Hyun Ah (Jeon Se Hyung) out for a drive in the countryside with a director who has promised her a role in an upcoming production. After their car breaks down near a small rural town, they decide to go for some chicken soup at the home of softly spoken farmer Pan Gon (Moon Sung Keun). Sadly for them, the seemingly nice and normal old fellow is actually a murderer and pervert, and he quickly dispatches the director and chains up Hyun Ah in a cage in the basement for his own awful purposes. Before long, her sister Hyun Jung (Choo Ja Hyun) shows up looking for her, and despite having no help from the local police, she soon has her sights on the increasingly deranged Pan Gon as the number one suspect behind the disappearance.
It doesn’t take long to realise that “Missing” is going the exploitation route rather than attempting any kind of dark exploration of the human psyche, as Kim Sung Hong wastes little time in getting down to bloody business. Dispensing with any ambiguity or stabs at viewer manipulation, Pan Gon is very quickly revealed as a nasty piece of work, with the film focusing on Hyun Ah’s horrifying ordeal and Hyun Jung’s efforts to find her. The film does divide its time between the characters, even spending a fair amount with its central psycho, and this helps to keep things interesting and moving along at a good pace. Inevitably, it also takes the viewer to some very dark and grim places, and though it’s quite likely that some aspects of the story have been spiced up somewhat, especially during the final act, it certainly doesn’t pull any punches or sugar coat events.
The film is a pretty gruesome affair and is frequently hard going, featuring a number of gory kill scenes that include several axes and other implements to the head as most of the supporting cast are knocked off. Moon Sung Keun makes for a chillingly believable madman, and thanks to his unnervingly calm approach, though not up to the level of “Hostel” or “Saw”, many of its frequent torture scenes are quite hard to watch. The film does get a lot of mileage out of its damsels in distress scenario, though with a perverse and sadistic edge, with Jeon Se Hyung mostly having to appear in the nude and undergo some disturbing humiliations and gruelling rape sequences. The film is strong stuff by the usual standards of the Korean genre, and may well have viewers with weaker constitutions or those seeking a straight crime thriller cowering behind the cushions.
All of this hangs together quite well, and whilst “Missing” is a bit distasteful at times, with the camera spending perhaps a little too long lingering over certain parts of Jeon Se Hyung’s anatomy, its an effective and entertaining piece of genre film making. A very different and far more exploitative beast than other recent Korean true crime outings, the film is an enjoyably nasty effort, boosted by a solid cast and plenty of seedy shocks, very much in the old fashioned Hong Kong category III style.
Sung-Hong Kim (director) / Yeong-ok-I Kim (screenplay)
CAST: Ja-Hyeon Chu